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The External Wall Fire Review (EWS1)
If you’re a flat owner or potential buyer, you may have come across the term “EWS1 form” in recent times. The External Wall Fire Review (EWS1) form has become a crucial document in the assessment of cladding risks for flats in the wake of high-profile fire safety concerns in multi-story buildings. In this article, we’ll delve into the details of the EWS1 form, its purpose, and how it impacts flat owners and buyers.
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What is the EWS1 Form?
The EWS1 form is a standardized document developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) in collaboration with other industry stakeholders.
It aims to assess the external wall construction and fire safety of residential buildings, particularly those with cladding systems, and identify potential risks.
The form is used by qualified and registered fire risk assessors to evaluate the fire safety of a building’s external walls and provide a professional opinion on the level of risk posed by the cladding system.
Why was the EWS1 Form Introduced?
The EWS1 form was introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy in London in 2017, where a fire spread rapidly through the cladding system, resulting in the loss of 72 lives.
This tragic event highlighted the need for a robust and standardized approach to assess the fire safety of cladding systems in residential buildings, particularly in high-rise and multi-story buildings.
The EWS1 form was developed to provide a consistent framework for assessing the external wall construction and fire safety of such buildings and to help identify and mitigate potential risks.
How Does the EWS1 Form Impact Flat Owners and Buyers?
The EWS1 form has significant implications for flat owners and potential buyers, especially those in buildings with cladding systems.
Many lenders and insurers now require an EWS1 form as part of their risk assessment process for mortgage applications or building insurance.
Without a valid EWS1 form, obtaining a mortgage or insurance for a flat in a building with cladding can be challenging or even impossible. This has resulted in delays, complications, and increased costs for flat owners and buyers.
The Assessment Process
The assessment process involves a qualified and registered fire risk assessor visiting the building and conducting a thorough review of the external wall construction and fire safety features.
This may include a review of the cladding system, insulation, fire breaks, cavity barriers, and other relevant elements.
The assessor will assess the risk level of the cladding system based on various factors, such as the type of cladding, its condition, and compliance with relevant building regulations and industry guidance.
Outcomes of the Assessment
Based on the assessment, the EWS1 form will indicate one of three outcomes: “A1,” “A2,” or “B.” An “A1” rating indicates the building has no cladding or the cladding system is deemed to have low risk, and no further action is required.
An “A2” rating indicates some issues or risks have been identified, but they can be managed through additional measures or mitigations.
A “B” rating indicates significant issues or risks have been identified that require further investigation or remedial works.
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Impacts on Mortgage Applications
The EWS1 form has a direct impact on mortgage applications for flats in buildings with cladding systems. Many lenders now require a valid EWS1 form as part of their risk assessment process.
If a building has a “B” rating or no EWS1 form, it can be difficult to obtain a mortgage or secure favorable lending terms.
Some lenders may require additional documentation, such as fire risk assessments or remediation plans, before considering a mortgage application.
This can result in delays, increased costs, or even denial of mortgage applications for flat owners or potential buyers.
Remedial Works and Costs
If a building receives a “B” rating on the EWS1 form or has identified risks, it may require remedial works to improve its fire safety.
The nature and extent of the remedial works will depend on the specific issues identified and the recommendations of the fire risk assessor.
Remedial works can range from simple measures such as improving fire breaks or cavity barriers to more extensive works such as replacing or retrofitting cladding systems.
The costs associated with remedial works can vary significantly depending on the size, complexity, and location of the building, and can be a significant financial burden for flat owners or management companies.
Challenges and Controversies
The introduction of the EWS1 form has not been without challenges and controversies.
One of the main challenges is the availability of qualified and registered fire risk assessors to conduct the assessments, particularly for older or larger buildings with complex cladding systems.
The demand for assessments has also resulted in delays, long waiting times, and increased costs for flat owners and management companies.
There have been controversies surrounding the accuracy and consistency of assessments, with some buildings receiving different ratings from different assessors, leading to confusion and frustration among flat owners and potential buyers.
Guidance and Support for Flat Owners and Buyers and Building Owners
If you own a flat or are considering buying one in a building with cladding systems, it’s essential to be aware of the requirements and implications of the EWS1 form.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the process:
- Stay informed: Keep yourself updated with the latest guidance and requirements related to the EWS1 form from reputable sources such as the RICS, government websites, and industry experts. Be aware of any changes or updates that may impact your building or mortgage application.
- Seek professional advice: Consult qualified and registered fire risk assessors, solicitors, and financial advisors to understand the implications of the EWS1 form for your specific situation. They can provide expert guidance on the assessment process, potential risks, remedial works, and financial implications. A mortgage broker will likely have a lot more knowledge on this than the average property owner / buyer.
- Be proactive: If your building does not have an EWS1 form or has identified risks, take proactive steps to address the issues. This may involve engaging qualified contractors to carry out remedial works, liaising with management companies or building owners, and keeping relevant parties updated on progress.
- Plan for costs: Be prepared for potential costs associated with the EWS1 form, including the assessment fees, remedial works, and potential impacts on mortgage applications. Create a financial plan and budget accordingly to avoid unexpected financial burdens.
- Review insurance coverage: Review your building’s insurance coverage to ensure it adequately covers the potential risks associated with the cladding system. Consider seeking advice from insurance brokers or professionals to understand the coverage and exclusions, and ensure you have appropriate insurance in place.
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The EWS1 form has become a crucial document in assessing cladding risks for flats in buildings with cladding systems.
It impacts mortgage applications, insurance coverage, and financial planning for flat owners and potential buyers.
Understanding the purpose, assessment process, outcomes, and challenges of the EWS1 form is essential to navigate the complexities associated with cladding issues.
Seek professional advice, stay informed, and be proactive in addressing any identified risks to ensure the safety and financial well-being of your flat and investment.